Asian People in NZ: Having a hard time

One of the strands of being really busy is finally resolved and open to public view: the Diversity Issues page on the site. This has been a long-term idea for my work at the Centre for Applied Cross-cultural Research, dating back to some attempts way back in ’04 to develop a better way to communicate about cultural diversity outside of the academic sphere.

The specific impetus was the well-received report by CACR and the Human Rights Commission, launched at the Diversity Forum last Monday, about the experience of discrimination by Asians in NZ. It’s a great report, easy to read, and worth at least a glance by every New Zealander. Here it is on Slideshare:

Of particular interest to the From the Morgue audience, I think, are parts 3.2 and 3.3, about employment access – the comments of recruitment companies (in 3.2, page 12) are shocking and the study where the same C.V. was sent out with either a Chinese name or a European name (page 14) matches it.

Overall it produces a pretty rough picture, but also the message is clear that Asians in NZ aren’t being destroyed by this consistent unfairness. They’re happy here, and happy to be here. That’s good to know, as they’re a huge demographic group in this country and growing all the time.

So I hope you’ll check out the report, and pop over to the Diversity Issues site to look around there and maybe to add a comment. Discussions online are always hard to foster so any contributions would be welcome!

5 thoughts on “Asian People in NZ: Having a hard time”

  1. I once provided a reference for an acquaintance from mainland China. She was a pretty high-powered accountant, working for one of the Big 5 – I’d worked with her on a government project. She was very, very capable; she also had an obviously Chinese name and an accent.
    For the reference, I got a call from a high-level manager at a major NZ firm. He asked the normal stuff about how her work had been, etc. And then he asked straight out if the fact that she was Chinese had caused any problems – had I been able to understand what she was saying, for instance?
    This was about two years ago. Anyone who doesn’t think there’s discrimination against asians in NZ society is deluding themselves.

  2. Yeah, that’s exactly the kind of story I’ve never had personal experience of and so haven’t ever considered before. Sad and frustrating.

  3. At a place where I have worked, there was a lengthy search to find an IT helpdesk employee. The IT manager complained at length that too many of the employees, although having IT experience, were Fijian Indians. The reason this was apparently a problem is that (without actually speaking to them) it was assumed they would be difficult to understand over the phone.

    They ended up settling for a Pakeha with no IT experience (a former schoolteacher) who had to be trained on the job.

    In all fairness, the exact same manager had previously employed a Chinese woman with a very strong accent in a non-helpdesk role, and has subsequently hired a Fijian Indian woman with a strong accent; presumably because they were not on a helpdesk he did not consider their accents to be a problem.

  4. That recruiter’s comment in the report (p12) sounds real weak – we’re against it, but we do it (even though it’s illegal), because we’re serving our customers’ needs.

    Then again, I can’t claim I wouldn’t rationalise my way off into some dumbness like that if it were my job and my livelihood.

    Goddamn you, fickle rationality!

  5. While working on Diwali for the council, I took a call from a guy who started with the sentence “Well, as you can tell from my accent, I’m not Indian”, my reply was “as you *can’t* tell from my accent, I am”.

    Still gobsmacked by the whole thing.

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